Alexander Hamilton Papers

To Alexander Hamilton from James McHenry, 26 March 1800

From James McHenry

War department March 26th. 1800


I have received your letters of the 18 and 25,1 instant.

I herewith transmit you the relative rank of the field Officers of the twelve additional regiments of Infantry as made out by the late Commander in Chief together with Copies of his letters and of the several papers referred to him.2

The letter from Colonel Read herein enclosed was not received until after the papers were returned by General Washington, and was not sent him. Colonel Reads statement will make an alteration in the order in which he is placed.3

It is certainly right if a Major of a regiment takes rank of another belonging to the same regiment in the line of the Army, that he should have precedence of him in the regiment to which they belong, and that in every such case the Senior should be considered as the first and the Junior as the Second Major. The law contemplates two Majors to a regiment a first and a second. I do not however consider that there are two Grades of Majors, as there are of Lieutenants—and in all appointments of Majors the nominations have been made to that rank without any regard being had to first and second.

You will examine the arrangement and point out to me as soon as may be any alteration which you may think ought to be made therein.

The original letters you will be pleased to return.

I am Sir   with great respect   Your obed servant

James McHenry

Major General Hamilton

LS, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.

1The draft of this letter is dated March 24, 1800, and it is printed above under that date.

2McHenry to George Washington, September 3, 1799 (copy, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress). There were, in turn, several enclosures to this letter to Washington, and McHenry sent them all to H with the letter printed above. These enclosures, all of which are in the Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress, are:

a. “The following Rules adopted by the president of the United States relative to Rank and promotion in the Army” (copy). See McHenry to H, September 3, 1799.

b. “A return extracted from the records of this Office exhibiting the names and ranks of the field Officers …” (copy).

c. “Circular to the field Officers of the twelve additional regiments,” July 13, 1799 (copy). In this circular, McHenry asked for the details of each officer’s military service, which would be used in settling their relative rank.

d. The replies to McHenry’s circular of July 12, 1799. The writers of these letters and the dates on which they were written are:

Thomas Lloyd Moore, July 16, 1799 (ALS).

William Shute, July 16, 1799 (ALS).

David Hopkins, July 18, 1799 (ALS).

William S. Smith, July 18, 1799 (ALS).

Josias Carvel Hall, July 20, 1799 (ALS).

William D. Beall, July 21, 1799 (ALS).

Aaron Ogden, July 24, 1799 (ALS).

Thomas Parker, July 24, 1799 (ALS).

Lawrence Butler, July 25, 1799 (ALS).

Nathan Rice, July 25, 1799 (ALS).

George Stevenson, July 26, 1799 (ALS).

Richard Hunewell, July 27, 1799 (ALS).

John Rowe, July 27, 1799 (ALS).

Robert Beale, July 28, 1799 (ALS).

James Baytop, July 30, 1799 (ALS).

William C. Bentley, July 30, 1799 (ALS).

Henry M. Rutledge, July 31, 1799 (ALS).

Rufus Graves, August 3, 1799 (ALS).

William Jones, August 3, 1799 (ALS).

John Ripley, August 3, 1799 (ALS).

William Willcocks, August 3, 1799 (ALS).

John Smith [August 5, 1799] (ALS).

Isaac Winslow, August 6, 1799 (ALS).

James Armstrong, August 8, 1799 (ALS).

Timothy Taylor, August 10, 1799 (ALS).

John Walker, August 10, 1799 (ALS).

Timothy Darling, August 13, 1799 (ALS).

William Brickell, August 14, 1799 (ALS).

William Henderson, August 17, 1799 (ALS).

William Campbell, August 21, 1799 (ALS).

Alexander D. Moore, August 24, 1799 (ALS).

James Read, September 19, 1799 (ALS). McHenry sent this letter to H, but not to Washington.

Also enclosed in the letter printed above is Washington to McHenry, September 15, 1799 (copy, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress), in which Washington returned to McHenry the enclosures in McHenry to Washington, September 3, 1799, and also enclosed “A list of Lieutenant Colonels and Majors … ranked agreeably to the documents from the War Office and in conformity with the rules adopted by the President of the United States relative to rank and promotion in the Army” (copy, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress).

3Read to McHenry, September 19, 1799, listed in note 2 above. In this letter Read stated that during the American Revolution in the “second Action” at Camden he “had the honour of Commanding a Regiment of North Carolina Militia with the Rank of Colonel under General [Nathanael] Greene” and that he “was also a Captain in the Continental Line.”

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